Italian Architecture during the XVIth Century. The palaces and villas of Rome

The Apostolic Palace was one of the largest architectural works of the 16th century in Rome; but, furthermore, this century was the period of the great Roman palaces. In a previous essay we saw how at the end of the 15th century Cardinal Raffaele Riario had ordered a large construction for his residence, now the gigantic building of the Chancellery. Just imagine what the cardinals of the 16th century were able to do with greater resources and with the example of Popes like Julius II and Leo X! We have also seen how the man that would later become Pope Paul III, ordered the construction of the famous Palazzo Farnese in 1530, the work of Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, who worked on it until his death in 1546. In front of this palace’s façade was projected a rectangular square with two fountains, for which two large old porphyry bathtubs from the Baths of Caracalla were repurposed. The interior of the Farnese Palace has a sumptuous distribution: the monumental internal square courtyard, the galleries running around it on the three floors, and a corridor with rooms around the façades. The rooms are covered with huge coffered ceilings or with high barrel vaults decorated with paintings, while colossal fireplaces fill the end walls of each room.

Main façade of the Palazzo Farnese, by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and Michelangelo, 1515-1589 (Rome). The Palazzo Farnese is one of the most important High Renaissance palaces in Rome and is currently the home of the French embassy in Italy. The palazzo was designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, one of Bramante’s assistants in St. Peter’s Basilica, and was commissioned by cardinal Alessandro Farnese, who later became Pope Paul III. The palazzo was further modified by the architectural designs of Michelangelo and Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, and was finally completed by Giacomo della Porta, who built a portico for the façade towards the Tiber river, which was finished in 1589.
In front of the Palazzo Farnese is the Piazza Farnese, a public square. During the 16th century, two large granite basins brought from the ancient Baths of Caracalla were adapted as fountains to decorate the square. The architect Girolamo Rainaldi designed around 1616 the two fountains in which the ancient tubs are located. The Fleur-de-Lis* placed on the upper part of the fountains are the emblem of the Farnese family.
View of a salon on the piano nobile* in the Palazzo Farnese (Rome) with a huge fireplace by Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola.
View of the Galleria Farnese in the Palazzo Farnese (Rome). In 1597 Cardinal Odoardo Farnese commissioned the Bolognese painter Annibale Carracci to fresco the ceiling of the large “Galleria Farnese” salon. For this room, Carraci produced his masterpiece fresco cycle of “The Loves of the Gods”. This series of frescoes were tremendously influential, and for two centuries rivalled with those by Michelangelo for the Sistine Chapel and Raphael’s frescos in the Vatican as glorious examples of Western painting. The Galleria Farnese used to serve as a display case for the precious antique statues that formed the magnificent collection of the Farnese, now mostly housed in the National Archeological Museum of Naples.

Another characteristic Roman palace of the time is that of the Massimo family built by other of Michelangelo’s disciples: Baldassare Peruzzi (1481-1536), who built it during the last years of his life, certainly after the sack of Rome in 1527 to replace the old houses of the Massimo family destroyed by the soldiers of the Constable of Bourbon (Charles III, Duke of Bourbon). The Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne has an austere façade with rigidly simplified moldings, and two floors with tall, rectangular windows, which give the whole building a character of ideal severity. On the ground floor there is an open portico with stone benches that occupy the center of the façade, a semi-public place that the lord, owner of the building, granted to the common people. Two classical statues, housed in two niches at the ends of this portico, seem to remind those who come there of the dignity of the house and its lords. Inside, the irregular shape of the inner patio is admirably concealed by two courtyards: one square, with porticoes, and the other trapezoidal in the back, visible through the columns of the square courtyard. The ingenious layouts to arrange different parts of a construction in order to get a grandiose effect out of the available space were the constant concern of 16th century Roman architects.

Main façade of the Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne, by Baldassare Peruzzi, 1532-1536 (Rome). The palace’s façade is renowned as one of the most masterful of its time. Peruzzi’s final work, the Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne was commissioned by Pietro Massimo on a key location along the Via Papalis (now Corso Vittorio Emanuele II). The curved façade was the result of the palace’s foundations which were built upon the stands for the ancient stadium (odeon*) of the emperor Domitian. As the palace was built at a point where the narrow street curved, the façade would only have been visible in segments as the observer walked by (though today the widened street allows the complete view). Peruzzi’s solution was to bend the façade itself. His design took full advantage of this difficult setting; the sequence of supports as the spectator passed the palazzo – pilasters, single columns, paired columns, entrance, paired columns, single columns, pilasters – would have created an experience in time as well as in space. There is no a central focal point over the main portal as it was customary for most Renaissance palaces, as well as the absence of vertical linkages to the floors above the ground floor. Peruzzi thus abandoned the traditional organizing system favored by Renaissance architects for one in which the elements of the façade establish their own natural relationship: for example for the two upper floors, Peruzzi designed small rectangular windows surrounded by delicate curved frames with moldings and scrolls. The wall surface itself has a lightly textured rustication. For the entrance portico, Peruzzi chose a Tuscan order* deprived of triglyphs so that the viewer’s eye is led around the bend without interruption. From street level, the windows of the piano nobile (the first floor-second level), each on its broad podium, must have seemed to move around the bend in a regular rhythm, while the third and fourth stories float in the rusticated wall, their window frames decorated with moldings and scrolls. The numerous columns, both outside and inside the palace, gave it the name alle Colonne
Interior view of the portico in front of the main door of the Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne (Rome). At either end of this portico, two classical statues are placed in large niches reminiscent of those of the Temple of Venus and Roma adjacent to the Roman Forum.
View of the inner square courtyard of the Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne (Rome). This courtyard includes a portico with Tuscan columns similar to those on the façade, and it was projected as a basement for a rich loggia opened on the first floor (second level), which is also made of columns but of Ionic order.

The Roman architecture of the 16th century produced even more interesting works in the leisure villas of the pontiffs or the powerful cardinals, who took pleasure in spending time in their country houses filled with the most precious works of art of classical antiquity and the Renaissance. Sometimes the great Roman families, who for two or three generations had enjoyed the rents of the Curia, not satisfied with owning their villas on the outskirts of the city, built other smaller residences in the interior of Rome, where life was less ceremonious. Thus for example, the Farnese family, in addition to the great monumental palace we have talked about, had a smaller palace called the Little Farnese located just a few hundred meters from their monumental Palazzo Farnese. This smaller property, intended for an individual of the family, was later annexed to the neighboring property of the Chigi family, of Siena, their famous villa in Trastevere decorated by Raphael and Il Sodoma: both properties later took the name of Villa Farnesina. This marvelous residence, the work of the highly refined Baldassare Peruzzi, has an exterior of great simplicity of lines in which the sun draws strong horizontal shadows and the light falls on the recessed pilasters that separate the windows. The interior, on the other hand, abounds in fantastic rooms such as the “Hall of Perspectives” (Sala delle Prospettive), in which the painted decoration suggests spaces open to the outdoors and large loggias with columns that do not exist. Everything is fantasy produced by amazing optical illusions. Peruzzi built this palace for Agostino Chigi, a Sienese banker who wanted to build a love nest for his concubine, the “divina Imperia”. This setting for festivities that once astonished Rome is today an empty house, a “work of art” visited by most tourists.

Main façade of Villa Farnesina, by Baldassare Peruzzi, 1505-1511 (Rome). This suburban villa was built for Agostino Chigi, a rich Sienese banker and the treasurer of Pope Julius II. Baldassare Peruzzi, Bramante‘s pupil, perhaps aided by Giuliano da Sangallo, designed and erected the villa. The villa became the property of the Farnese family in 1577 (hence the name of Farnesina, “little Farnese” compared to the family’s larger Palazzo Farnese, see pictures before). The Farnesina was later a property of the Bourbons of Naples and in 1861 to the Spanish Ambassador in Rome. Today, owned by the Italian State, it is the home of the Accademia dei Lincei, a long-standing and renowned Roman academy of sciences.
View of the garden façade of Villa Farnesina (Rome). Towards the garden, Villa Farnesina was given a U shaped plan with a five bay loggia between the arms.
View towards the garden from the Loggia of Psyche, Villa Farnesina (Rome). The loggias and halls of Villa Farnesina were lavishly decorated with paintings. In the original arrangement for the villa, the main entrance was through the north facing loggia which was then open (today the loggia is closed with large glass panels). In 1517 Agostino Chigi commissioned Raphael to decorate the ground floor loggia of the villa which communicates between the living-room and garden outside. The decorative cycle of this loggia reflects the cultured atmosphere which flourished in Rome under Julius II and Leo X. Raphael designed frescoes representing the Story of Psyche, a myth derived from the Golden Ass of Apuleius (2nd century A. D.).
View of the Loggia of Psyche, Villa Farnesina (Rome). Chigi commissioned the fresco decoration of Villa Farnesina to artists such as Raphael, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giulio Romano, and Il Sodoma. The most celebrated of this painted decorations are Raphael’s frescoes on the ground floor in the loggia depicting the classical and secular myths of Cupid and Psyche, and The Triumph of Galatea. In the loggia’s vault there’s a horoscope that displays the positions of the planets around the zodiac on the patron’s birth date, 29 November 1466. For the decoration of this loggia, Raphael treated the roof as if it were an open pergola. The actual “structure” of the imaginary pergola was based on the existing wall divisions, and Raphael covered them with magnificent, rampant garlands of fruit. He also designed the two large ceiling frescoes that simulate tapestries stretched across the roof. Although Raphael designed and conceived the stories depicted by the frescoes, the bulk of the painting was carried out by his pupils, notably Giovanni da Udine (who painted the rich fruit garlands) with the collaboration of Giulio Romano, Raffaellino del Colle and Gianfrancesco Penni. Despite the strong erotic charge of the paintings, the cycle was meant as an example of virtuous womanhood.
View of the Sala delle Prospettive (“Hall of Perspectives”) in the Villa Farnesina (Rome). In the first floor level, Baldassare Peruzzi painted the main banquet room with trompe-l’œil frescoes simulating a grand open loggia with an illusory city and countryside view beyond. The perspective of the illusory painted balcony and colonnade is very accurate from a fixed point in the room. The illusionistic frescoes of Peruzzi make the large room to be open up to the sides through colonnades onto terraces that present distant views on the skyline of the city of Rome. The painted architecture supports a frieze with a series of scenes from ancient myths. In these frescoes, Peruzzi was influenced by the illusionistic perspective schemes done before by Melozzo da Forli and Mantegna. The illusory elements painted by Peruzzi include a splendid architecture of dark, veined marble piers and columns with gilded capitals that incorporates the actual veined marble door frames in the room. The frescoed architecture is so precisely painted that it is almost impossible to distinguish where the real marble ends and the illusion begins. Through the illusionistic lofty columns one looks out to a painted terrace that opens onto a continuous landscape.

The powerful Medici had their palace built on Via Giulia, a building begun in the time of Cosimo, the founder of the dynasty, but in addition, his successors built a villa on the Pincian Hill, where the Academy of France is currently installed: the Villa Medici. On the outside it has a simple façade admirably intoning with the dark green of the pines and cypresses of the neighboring Roman gardens. Also in front there’s a terrace so that the populace could enjoy the splendid views, a fountain drops water into an antique vase, under cleverly trimmed oaks. In the rear part, the villa’s façade is more cheerful, more rustic, and the garden includes boxwood hedges from Florence, which reminded the Medici of their villas in Tuscany.

The façade of Villa Medici, by Annibale Lippi and Bartolomeo Ammanati, completed in 1544 (Rome). Located on the Pincian Hill in Rome. The villa was founded by Ferdinando I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and houses the French Academy in Rome. In 1576, Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici acquired the property and finished the construction under designs by Bartolomeo Ammanati. The numerous antiquities stored in the Villa Medici later became the nucleus of the collection of antiquities in the Uffizi (Florence).
Façade towards the garden of Villa Medici (Rome). The Villa Medici gardens are contiguous with the larger Borghese gardens. These series of grand gardens designed for the Villa Medici recalled the botanical gardens created at Pisa and at Florence by the Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici’s father Cosimo I de’ Medici, which were sheltered in plantations of pines, cypresses and oaks.
The fountain in the front of the Villa Medici was designed by reusing a large red granite vase from ancient Rome. It was designed by Annibale Lippi in 1589. The view from this spot looking over the fountain towards St. Peter’s in the distance has been much painted through the centuries, but the trees that have been planted in the foreground have now obscured the view.

One of the most luscious of all Roman villas, on the slopes of Mount Mario dominating all of Rome and much of the Lazio, was built by Raphael around 1516 and remained unfinished. Today it is named Villa Madama, after a real person who later owned it. The front part of the building is badly damaged today. It is not possible to guess anything about its arrangement and shape, but on the eastern façade, which overlooked a garden terrace, there is evidence of the elegance of the Roman decorations done by the school of Raphael; the loggia or portico is covered with painted stucco of incomparable delicacy and finesse. They are the so-called “grotesques” that Raphael learned by studying in detail the wall decorations of Nero’s “Domus Aurea, whose remains had just been discovered at the time. The same floor plan of the Villa Madama, with its circular patio and its clusters of rooms with apses, is an attempt to resemble the grandeur of the ancient Roman baths.

Aerial view of Villa Madama, by Raphael, begun in 1518 (Rome). Raphael’s greatest work as an architect, and one of the most influential examples of Mannerist architecture, was this villa built on the Monte Mario just outside Rome for Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici. The round entrance courtyard was partially built, showing its extraordinary arrangement of large and small brick columns, almost entirely concealing the wall to which they are applied. The function of the villa was to serve as a residence for high-ranking visitors to the papal court.
View of the entrance courtyard of the Villa Madama (Rome). After the death of Raphael in 1520, work on Villa Madama proceeded slowly by some of his disciples, including Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and a large team of artists involved in the decoration. Most of the efforts were devoted to painting the few rooms that had been built, and constructing more terraces. Construction ceased in 1521 when the patron Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici returned to Florence. In 1523, when Giulio was named Pope Clement VII, work restarted and the apartment and garden loggia were completed that year. In 1527, during the Sack of Rome, parts of the structure were pillaged and were exposed to fire. Some sections were rebuilt, but the villa was never completed. The villa owns its name “Madama” to madam Margaret of Austria, the wife of Duke Alessandro, Lord of Florence.
View of the Loggia di Raffaello (“Raphael’s Loggia”) in Villa Madama (Rome). The villa’s greatest artistic element is the Raphael’s loggia which opens to the gardens. The decorations of the Villa were done by Giulio Romano and Baldassare Peruzzi; Giovanni da Udine completed the bas-reliefs in stucco, inspired by the Ancient Roman reliefs of Nero’s Domus Aurea; both Giovanni Francesco Penni and the Florentine sculptor Baccio Bandinelli worked also in the villa. This great tripartite loggia, which was vaulted and decorated soon after Raphael’s death by his workshop, is one of the most magnificent rooms built in the Renaissance. Yet, for all its grandeur, the loggia is convivial in feeling and social in character, perhaps because of the small scale and playful nature of its crisp stucco ornamentation: the pilasters articulate the wall but are part of its low-relief pattern so that the surfaces flow unbroken from space to space, from walls into domes, semi-domes and apses. The un-matching marble floor was added during the time of Mussolini.

Another characteristic villa from the 16th century is that of Pope Julius III, which stood on the Via Flaminia, today housing the Etruscan Museum and which still bears the name of his owner, Villa Giulia, designed around 1550 by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, the disciple of Michelangelo who built the Church of the Gesù. At the back, the main body of the building ends in a semicircular courtyard with an open portico on the ground floor; in consequence, this semicircular shape has to harmonize with the adjacent bay, which is straight; the rest of the irregular spaces were used for stairs. But beyond this core, there is a series of low buildings enclosing a long garden that protect with their shadow some low walls without windows: it is a hortus conclusus or closed garden, forbidden from prying eyes, where only the intimate inhabitants of the palace were allowed. Finally, there is a construction partially built below ground level, probably to escape the heat, with a “nymphaeum*” or underground bath in a grotto supported by half-naked caryatids: fresh water from a spring falls into the shallow pool, dripping with ferns and mosses.

Main façade of the Villa Giulia, by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola with Bartolomeo Ammanati and Giorgio Vasari, 1551-1555 (Rome). Built in 1551 at the request of Pope Julius III, this villa has a first inner courtyard with a semicircular portico (see picture below) whose vault is beautifully frescoed. Today it houses the Museo Nazionale Etrusco (“National Etruscan Museum”). Villa Giulia became one of the most celebrated examples of Mannerist architecture. The villa, as was customary, had an urban entrance facing the public road and a formal entrance towards the gardens. The façade to the street designed by Vignola includes two somber levels with equal architectural value. At its center has the triple rhythm of a richly detailed rusticated triumphal arch flanked by symmetrical wings of two bays only. At each end, the façade is terminated by Doric pilasters. The layout of this façade of the Villa Giulia is the origin of the seven-bay 18th century Georgian villa, which was reproduced as far away as Virginia in the United States of America.
A model of the Villa Giulia (Rome), the complex was originally surrounded by vineyards.
View of the loggia of Villa Giulia (Rome). This large hemispherical loggia designed by Vignola, overlooks the first of three courtyards which were laid out as a simple parterre*.
View under the loggia of Villa Giulia (Rome). The fresco paintings on the loggia’s vault imitate a gazebo full of vine shoots, roses and jasmine. This loggia opens to the villa’s first inner courtyard through a semicircular portico.
View of the first courtyard of Villa Giulia (Rome). After passing through the loggia (see picture above), the visitors enter the first courtyard enclosed by a combination of classical style columns, pilasters and arches.
View of the nymphaeum of Villa Giulia (Rome). In 1552, Bartolomeo Ammanati created a second space contiguous to the first courtyard (see picture above) with a loggia with a horseshoe staircase that leads to a nymphaeum with rock gardens, false caves and caryatids, all decorated with Roman sculptures. The supervision of the construction of this nymphaeum and other garden structures was led by Giorgio Vasari. The two-story Nympheum was used for alfresco dining during the heat of the summer. This three-levelled structure of covered loggias, decorated with marble statuary, reclining river gods in niches, and balustrading, is constructed around a central fountain (see pictures below). Here in this cool environment, sheltered from the blazing sun, day-long picnics were held.
Detail of the nymphaeum of Villa Giulia (Rome). At the bottom of the Nymphaeum an ancient Roman mosaic of a triton was re-used. on the floor.
Detail of the nymphaeum of Villa Giulia (Rome). The central fountain, known as Fontana dell’Acqua Vergine (“Fountain of the Virgin Water”), was designed and sculpted by Vasari and Ammanati: it depicts river gods and caryatids. The fountain’s source, the Acqua Vergine, an ancient Roman aqueduct still in use today, also supplies the water for the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome.

The abundance of readily available ancient architectural fragments, column shafts and even stone benches, which were easy to find among the ancient Roman ruins, prompted Renaissance architects to include these decorative elements in the gardens of large palaces and villas: pavilions, loggias and walls with balustrades. Furthermore, Rome was, and still is, a city rich in water; its ancient aqueducts still continue to pour water into the city. Thus it is understood that the architects of these villas for popes and cardinals took advantage of this abundance to beautify these large palaces with ponds, baths and waterfalls.

The most notable of these luscious gardens are those of the villa built by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este in 1548 in Tivoli, near Rome, the Villa d’Este, where water runs everywhere propelled by thousands of fountains and waterfalls, or in fountains arranged in the center of the squares formed by tall cypress trees, or in cisterns in which rustic architectural elements and small fantastic constructions were artfully arranged and that later came to define the typical lavish Italian garden.

View of the façade of Villa d’Este towards the gardens, by Pirro Ligorio with Alberto Galvani, 1560-(Tivoli, near Rome, Italy). The Villa was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara and grandson of Pope Alexander VI. As a Governor of Tivoli he received an official residence located in a former convent of the Benedictine order, which had been built in the 9th century on the site of an old Roman villa. D’Este commissioned Pirro Ligorio, a prominent scholar who had studied the Villa Adriana and other Roman sites in the vicinity, to design a new lavish villa and garden. For this purpose, Ippolito took abundant quantities of marble and statuary from the ruins of the nearby Hadrian’s villa.
View of the courtyard of Villa d’Este (Tivoli, Italy). The villa’s courtyard used to be the original cloister of the Benedictine convent. It was built in 1566–1567, and is surrounded by a gallery. The centerpiece of the courtyard (not in the picture) is the Fountain of Venus, the only fountain in the villa which retains its original appearance and decoration.
Aerial view of Villa d’Este and its gardens (Tivoli, Italy). Villa d’Este is famous for its terraced hillside Italian Renaissance garden, particularly for its profusion of fountains. For the construction of this garden, between 1563 and 1565 a huge amount of earth was excavated and was next used to construct the terraces, arcades, grottos, niches, and nymphaeums. The river Aniene, closer to the construction site, was diverted to provide water for the complex system of pools, water jets, channels, fountains, cascades and water games. Following the aesthetic principles of the Renaissance, the garden was divided into regular units, or compartments, each 30 meters (98 ft) across, laid out along a longitudinal median axis, with five lateral axes. In the time of Ippolito d’Este, the entrance to the villa was located at the bottom of the gardens, thus the visitor was forced to gradually ascend, step by step, to the main building while viewing the gardens, fountains and statuary around. Today the villa’s main entrance is from a doorway located adjacent to the courtyard at the rear-side of the villa.
The Cento Fontane (“Hundred Fountains”) at the gardens of Villa d’Este (Tivoli, Italy). This series of fountains are located between the oval fountain (see picture below) and the Fontana di Rometta, and include nearly 300 spouts fed by three parallel canals, one above the other. Along the edge of the upper canal there are spouts in the form of lilies, the emblem of France, alternating with the d’Este eagle, boats and obelisks; all spraying water in a fan shape. The water is captured by the second canal, which feeds it into spouts in the form of masks, from which it reaches the lower canal.
These fountains were built between 1566 and 1577.
The Fontana dellOvato (“Oval Fountain”) at the gardens of Villa d’Este (Tivoli, Italy). This was one of the first fountains built in the garden, and among the most famous. It was designed by Pirro Ligorio, the villa’s architect, as a water theater, spraying water in a variety of forms. It was built between 1565 and 1570. A massive stone basin against the semicircular back wall cascades water into the fountain, and sprays it into the air, while water jets into the basin from vases in the hands of statues of Nereids and also in fan shapes from vases located in niches in the semi-circular wall behind the fountain. An artificial mountain rises above the fountain, symbolizing the Tiburtine landscape; the mountain is pierced by three grottos, each pouring water, and is decorated with statues. An upper walkway above the fountain leads past the ring of basins and cascades. The fountain also has its own grotto, the Grotto of Venus, also designed by Ligorio, and built between 1565–1568. It served as a meeting place for guests on hot summer days.
View of the Peschiere (“Fish Ponds”) from the top of the Fontana di Nettuno (“Fountain of Neptune) at the gardens of Villa d’Este (Tivoli, Italy). Central stairs from the villa’s building lead down a wooded slope to three rectangular fishponds set on the cross-axis at the lowest point of the gardens, terminated at the right by the water organ (see picture below) and the Fountain of Neptune (a modern addition during the 20th century restorations). The three fish ponds bisect the garden from the Fountain of Neptune. They served originally to provide fresh fish, duck, and swan for the Cardinal’s dinners. The ponds now serve primarily as a picturesque foreground for cascades and fountains of the Fountain of Neptune.
The Fontana dell’Organo (“Fountain of the Organ”) at the gardens of Villa d’Este (Tivoli, Italy). This gem is one of the most famous features of the garden; it was described and imitated throughout Europe, and built between 1566 and 1571. The fountain itself was made by the French fountain engineer Luc Leclerc and his nephew Claude Venard. After the death of Leclerc, Venard invented the ingenious mechanism of the water organ. The water that powers the organ and the hydraulic machinery are concealed in a reservoir behind the fountain. A clever combination of water, air and movement makes the organ work.


Fleur-de-lis: (From the French meaning flower “fleur” and lily “lis”). A stylized Lily used as a decorative design or symbol. The fleur-de-lis has been used in the heraldry of numerous European nations, but is particularly associated with France, notably during its monarchical period.

Nymphaeum: In ancient Greece and Rome, a Nymphaeum was a monument dedicated to the nymphs, especially those of springs. These monuments were originally natural grottoes, which tradition assigned as habitations to the local nymphs. During the Renaissance, a nymphaeum was a place dedicated for al fresco summer dining featuring artificial grottoes with waterflows and sculptures, accompanied by vegetation.

Odeon: (From Ancient Greek, meaning “singing place”). The term refers to several ancient Greek and Roman buildings built for musical activities, such as singing, musical shows and poetry competitions. Odeons were smaller than Greek and Roman theatres.

Parterre: A formal garden constructed on a level substrate, consisting of plant beds, typically in symmetrical patterns, which are separated and connected by paths.

Piano nobile: (From Italian meaning “noble floor” or “noble level”). The principal floor of a palazzo. The piano nobile contains the main reception and bedrooms of the house.